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“The Triple Crown is nonsense”

Sep 24, 2012, 8:23 AM EDT

Miguel Cabrera Getty Images

Brian Kenny (or his headline writer) says it, and he’s absolutely right.  Not absolute nonsense, of course — it’s really cool and rare to win the Triple Crown and if Miguel Cabrera does it he deserves tons of huzzahs and kudos — but nonsense in terms of naming an MVP:

I like the Triple Crown. Really, I love its place in baseball history and how it’s one of the exclusive clubs of the immortals. I also like giving the Most Valuable Player Award to the best player in the league. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers — Triple Crown or not — is just not that guy … if Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown this year, he deserves to be put alongside Carl Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. It just doesn’t mean, on its own, that he was the best player in the American League. He’s not. Mike Trout is.

It has been established wisdom in baseball for the better part of a decade — and much longer in some circles — that RBI is an extremely poor measure of an individual player’s worth, that batting average is far less important than many other metrics and that, while chicks dig the long ball, there is much more to baseball than power at the plate. In light of that, how can one say that the leader in those three categories is automatically the most valuable player in the game?

Granted, in most years that player probably is the best. But not when there’s another guy whose overall offense is almost as good, and who then laps the Triple Crown leader in every other aspect of the game. Aspects of the game which the very same people who get all mad at “sabermetrics” have argued for years that the sabermetricians were ignoring.

If you reject the notion that RBI and batting average tell you the most about a player’s overall value, you cannot slavishly look to the triple crown categories as the authority on who is the most valuable. To do so makes no sense at all.

138 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. plseattle - Sep 24, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    lets compare Verlander’s 2011 season with RA Dckey’s 2012 season and, for the sake of argument, say “what if” they happened in the same year and the same league? dickey is also very close to the triple crown this year (which no one seems to care about) so our we to assume that he should win the Cy Young over Verlander in the scenario? of course not!

    • cur68 - Sep 24, 2012 at 4:25 PM

      It would not make me the least unhappy if RA Dickey won the Cy Young over Justin Verlander.

      • nbjays - Sep 25, 2012 at 7:46 AM

        Which would be very cool! Think about it…the last time a batter won the Triple Crown was 1967… the last time a National League pitcher beat an American League pitcher out for the Cy Young was a year earlier. :-)

    • don444 - Sep 25, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Not a particularly well-reasoned argument on your part considering a) Verlander himself captured his league’s pitching Triple Crown last year which renders any notion that Dickey’s potential win this year could somehow trump Verlander’s 2011 completely moot and b) the pitching Triple Crown in general, though itself rare, has been accomplished more than twice as often in the modern era (1901) as has the batting Triple Crown, a fact that, rightly or wrongly, imbues it with a good bit less reverance and less grandeur than its more famous counterpart. Trout is a great, great player and would not be an undeserving recipient of the MVP this season, but the simple reality is that Cabrera would more than likely capture a close vote if he can hit a few more HRs down the stretch and post the first TC in 45 years. I agree that the Triple Crown shouldn’t necessarily be the ssole determinant on MVP voting, but the notion forwarded by Kenny and echoed in this article that it’s actually “nonsense” represents an obvious example of hyperbole and is clearly an overstatement.

  2. 4cornersfan - Sep 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    So, it’s just a coincidence that every Triple Crown winner since 1901 is in the Hall of Fame?

    • don444 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      With all due respect, that particular fact actually has very little to do one way or the other with the rather erroneous point that was forwarded in this article.

    • don444 - Oct 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Uh, whoever had the nerve to come on here and vote my comment down is a fucking moron as what I said in this instance is spot-on correct and perfectly true. That every Triple Crown winner prior to Cabrera in the 20th century is in the HOF has NOTHING to do with whether or not a Triple Crown winner should automatically be considered the strong favorite for MVP in any given season. Perhaps you’re simply too dumb to understand exactly why that is, but it’s a fact nonetheless.

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